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Threatening social media police behaviour sparks concern

Hundreds of serving Police officers have got into trouble for breaching social media guidelines, a probe by the Press Association has found.

The study reveals officers had made inappropriate, racist or threatening comments in cyberspace or even sent Facebook 'friend' requests to victims of crimes they were investigating.

At least 828 cases in England and Wales have been uncovered of such abuse of social media in the five years 2009-February this year, says the study.

9 per cent of cases ended badly for the officer found out - in either resignation, dismissal or retirement; 14 per cent resulted in no further action at all. The majority of other cases were dealt with through advice being offered to the officer in question, says the study.

Commenting on the revelations, The College of Policing's chief executive, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, noted, "There is no place in policing for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public." (The College strives to raise the professional standards of the UK Police sector.)

Cases flagged up by the press today include examples of Community Support Officers adding pictures to their Facebook profiles of them posing with guns, making remarks about their seniors online, comments about minorities and, in one somewhat baffling reference, "Two special constables who had to resign from Northamptonshire Police after they were pictured on a website in a 'compromising position.'"

Not all the cases involved uniformed or frontline officers. In one such case, a member of back office (civilian) staff in Lancashire had to resign after what is described as "excessive and inappropriate use of the internet during working hours" - including online auction sites, Internet banking and social networking."

Staff were also investigated for comments deemed homophobic, racist or "religiously aggressive".

In terms of greatest Force offenders, Greater Manchester Police reported the most investigations (88), followed by West Midlands (74) and The Met (69).